June 19, 2009 / 1:00 PM / 9 years ago

UK's National Grid outlines power future

LONDON, June 19 (Reuters) - Electric cars, smart meters and new ways to store energy can help balance power supply and demand by 2020 when Britain will rely more heavily on wind farms and nuclear plants, Britain’s grid operator said on Friday.

National Grid (NG.L) said in a report that extra back-up for variable wind power was not the only solution and suggested that finding ways to get consumers to reduce demand can play an important role in balancing electricity supply and demand in coming years.

Britain and other European Union members have agreed to a pact calling for countries to source 20 percent of their energy from renewables by 2020 to help reduce carbon emissions.

For Britain, this may mean a sharp rise in the amount of wind farms used to generate power — something that leaves a bigger portion of power supplies at the mercy of the country’s famously changeable weather.

Bigger nuclear power plants expected to come on line over the next few decades may generate a bigger share of electricity as well, raising the risk that future nuclear outages will require a larger amount of back-up power to keep the lights on.

“Traditionally people have thought you just need more back-up generation,” a National Grid spokesman said.

“But there are some really good ways we can bring demand down in the future.”

National Grid, which operates the electricity transmission system and gas network across Great Britain, also said that better wind forecasting, sophisticated control systems and new technologies to boost an operating reserve of back-up supplies could help.

More wind generation will likely require possible reserve requirements to rise to 8,000 megawatts from 4,000 MW currently, the 82-page report found. A thousand megawatts is enough to power about 1 million homes.

“There will be times when there is not wind out there and that can coincide with peak demand,” Larque said.

Smart meters and smart grids could take shift times when consumers use power to ease demand at peak times, National Grid said. Getting consumers to do things like charge electric cars overnight instead of during the day was another option.

Storage could also play a far bigger role with new battery technology and the use of large flywheels or compressed air that could potentially quickly convert energy into electricity by turning a turbine, the report found.

These kinds of measures could free up another 8,000 megawatts of power, the report found. “The way we operate and the way the electricity market operates is likely to change,” National Grid said in the report. “The way that consumers, large and small may interact with the market may also change considerably.” (Reporting by Michael Kahn; editing by William Hardy)

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